What financial services can do to support wellbeing in the workplace

By Poppy Jaman, pictured, CEO of Mental Health First Aid England

Each year around ten million adults in the UK will experience mental ill health, meaning one in four of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lifetime. Over the past year, mental health awareness has accelerated, and more and more employers now understand that mental health is not only a serious issue for society but for businesses too.

This year, alongside an increasing number of celebrities, well-known faces and the Royal Family talking about mental health, we have seen great work from the likes of Thrive London and the Lord Mayor’s campaign, ‘This is me – in the City’, raising awareness of mental health issues and the importance of mental wellbeing.

Although it’s encouraging to see that attitudes towards mental health are shifting, it is important we remain conscious of what more we still need to achieve. Recently, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, and others, partnered with Business in the Community to support the launch of the Mental Health at Work Report. Worryingly, it revealed as many as 1.2 million people may have faced disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal, after disclosing a mental health issue at work. That’s 15% of the working population and a troubling rise of 6%, when compared with the findings in last year’s report.

With those in the financial industry working increasing hours, with less resources, and under more pressure, the report shone a spotlight on the sector. It found jobs in financial services are 44% more likely to lead to stress-related illnesses than the average UK job. Alongside this, it showed that only a third of employees feel able to discuss mental ill health with someone at work. Mental health undoubtedly remains an urgent and critical issue for the financial industry.

The time to act is now. Awareness and talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation. But to better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to offer mental health training.

To date, over 210,000 people in England have trained in MHFA skills. One employer who has taken ownership of mental health in their workplace is EY. Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, UK & Ireland, commented: “Over 700 of our people in the UK, including senior leaders, have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders. We want to better equip our people to identify when a person is struggling at work, both physically and mentally, and help them to get the support they need.”

To help enable all employers to take a whole organisation approach to mental health, MHFA England also launched a ‘Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit’. It illustrates a strategic step-by-step process to achieve a mentally healthy workplace, providing a suite of resources to facilitate this.

For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue download the free Line Managers Resource at: mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/resources/for-workplaces/

You can also find out more about Workplace MHFA courses at: mhfaengland.org/organisations/workplace/